I traveled over to Adams County, in the heart of Amish Country, to give a talk to the board of the Ohio Nature Conservancy on October 1. TNC is planning an ambitious project to build a land bridge between the Edge of Appalachia preserve and Shawnee State Forest. This is the heart of cerulean warbler country. There could not be a better time to acquire and preserve mature mesic deciduous forest in the stronghold of the cerulean warbler's range. I'm so excited about this acquisition project, which is proceeding without delay. Just look at these hills, cloaked in oaks and hickories, at the mist rolling up from the hayfields.
I spoke to the board about all the threats facing cerulean warblers and other Neotropical migrant songbirds: mountaintop removal mining primary among them. And it was a balm, the next morning, to drive out and through the best remaining cerulean warbler habitat going. Ceruleans sing so persistently and abundantly in Shawnee State Forest that when I was there three springs ago we were laughing and calling them "trash birds," these endangered little scraps of blue.
We were making a long caravan, snaking through the Blue Creek valley south of Peebles, Ohio, when I saw a deliquescing tobacco barn that begged to be photographed. I stopped, and the caravan went on without me.
But I had an ace in the hole: my old Facebook friend and brand new flesh and blood (I like to say corporeal) friend, Tricia West. Tricia grew up on a tobacco farm near here. That's why we decided to have our photo made in front of skeins of drying tobacco.
We decided to turn this unfortunate event (being separated from the TNC field trip) into an expotition. And we did. We wound through the valleys and found Sunshine Ridge Road, for which TNC's "Sunshine Corridor" project is named, and we marveled at the fabulous habitat all around us. It was so exciting to know it would be preserved forever.
Tricia pointed out the tobacco barns, airy structures made for drying wet tobacco that's hung from the rafters. The long dark line on the left of this barn is tobacco, drying under black plastic in the field. It's then taken and hung up in the barn. Tricia said each plant gets handled a lot between planting and the final stripping of the leaves from the stem.
The house is in beautiful repair, not a single detail anachronistic or jarring. So beautiful.
And right next door, the little store owned by her family. How I would love to make this a studio, not change a detail. Well, maybe drown it in flowers, put a Boston terrier on the front porch. That's all.
Tricia called this the greenhouse. Green it was, with a huge black walnut dropping alarums on its roof.
I don't know why I like this photo so much, taken as it was from my car window. I liked the laundry flapping on the line, and tried to snap it, but the G-ll was sluggish and I got a sugar maple in the way. And it was perfect.
A lonely field, more black walnuts having taken off their summer dresses, standing naked before the winter.
A barn, being taken over by trees.
As so very many are. I love the ruins, but I love more to see a barn doing its job. A trip to Amish country reminds me that somewhere, there are barns that aren't slated for demolition, barns that contribute and are appreciated.